Healthy Start families enjoy togetherness

A baby and Santa gaze at each other

Christmas cheer filled the room and Calvary United Methodist Church became a Winter Wonderland as The Baby Fold’s Healthy Start families in McLean County gathered for their annual holiday party.

The parents and children shared an evening meal, sponsored by donations from local first responders. Volunteers hosted a variety of activity stations to entertain the little ones throughout the evening, including making handmade ornaments, playing with fun tattoos, and trying their best at snowball bowling. Sweet treats were also available thanks to a grant provided by Thrivent.

children sit on a bench

Many of the Healthy Start families in Champaign County recently bonded and gathered for their own Winter Nights party at Prairie Farm, too!

They strolled through the festive lights at the park, warmed up with hot cocoa, and took dinner home to enjoy together as a family; creating lasting memories.

Wrapping up local wishes

employees load gifts to deliver to Baby Fold kids

Christmas wishes will be coming true throughout Central Illinois after the amazing community support of The Baby Fold’s Christmas Wish List program. Individuals and organizations blessed over 745 children this year, purchasing clothing, bedding, and toys for our Baby Fold kids.

Many local children will also be riding new bicycles, thanks to Jane, a local resident. For the last 26 years, Jane has been donating bicycles to Christmas Wish List in memory of her late father who loved riding his bike.

Jane with bikes

Jane hopes her children carry on her bicycle legacy. Not only does she encourage that for the benefit of The Baby Fold kids involved, but also for the joy that giving brings to her personally. “You get so much more back than what you give,” Jane said. “I would encourage anyone to give, even when you feel like you can’t. What you get back is tenfold.”

ISU Men's Basketball team makes a slam dunk for kids

ISU Mens Basketball coach and players with stockings

Ryan and Stephanie Pedon recently moved to Bloomington-Normal from Ohio, and they wanted to give back to their new community this holiday season. As the head coach of the Illinois State University Men’s Basketball Team, Ryan also wanted to encourage a spirit of philanthropy in his players. 

That desire inspired the Pedons and their son to work with their players and coaches to purchase and assemble nearly 100 sensory stockings for the children of The Baby Fold. Each holiday stocking contains a variety of therapeutic toys such as fidget spinners, magnetic rings, maze games, monkey noodles, sensory bean bags, and more.

Sensory toys are an essential tool in many programs at The Baby Fold. Students can use the toys to self-regulate and focus. These items allow the child to “fidget” with their hands so that their mind can focus on their teacher or therapist.

So not only did the basketball team give the gift of essential therapeutic tools this season, but they’re also helping kids learn, heal, and grow. Thank you, ISU Men’s Basketball! 

ISU basketball players and coaches pose with Baby Fold staff

A Peaceful Message from Pastor Lori

children with holiday lights

Peace on earth starts with peace in each heart. Every one of The Baby Fold’s healing-centered programs is designed to bring peace to the heart.

We begin with making sure basic needs of the children and families are met. Not a small task in these tough economic times. We are so grateful for our church and community support.

Then we help them develop healthy relationships at home and at school or work. And when life stabilizes, there is space for peace.

Peace comes wrapped in swaddling clothes. When God placed his Son on earth, He gave us the gift of peace. And Jesus showed us what peace in the storms of life looks like. And He even gave us peace as a parting gift when He returned to His Father’s house when He had completed His earthly ministry (see John 14).

So may you and your household experience the peace of Christ throughout this season and in the year to come. From The Baby Fold and our families to yours.

Rev. Lori Bultemeier

Our kids are counting on you! Consider a year-end donation

a small child looks at holiday lights

The children in our programs were blessed by the community support of our Christmas Wish List program, but the ever-present need continues for funding to support the life-critical services offered by The Baby Fold. 

Your donation today could help a young girl with autism as she learns and grows at Hammitt Elementary School. Your gift would assist an adoptive family as they work through a child’s past trauma and strengthen their loving family bonds. Your contribution could support a young mother and to give her baby a strong foundation.

The Baby Fold makes giving easy by accepting secure online gifts, IRA rollovers, stocks, securities, property, cryptocurrency, and more. Visit the website today to make your gift and transform the lives of local children and families. Thank you for helping us build better futures for our children.

The Baby Fold wraps up its 120th Anniversary Celebration! Take a look our journey through the 2010s and beyond…

The era around 2010 was another decade of expansion for The Baby Fold as the organization continued to grow in new ways to meet the needs of local children. 

children learning by playing a game

A brand new program called Community Schools launched in August 2015 at Fairview Elementary in Normal. After its success at Fairview, the program expanded in 2017 to include Cedar Ridge Elementary as well.

Through Community Schools, social workers are embedded in the schools and help identify and support trauma-impacted children and their families. The improvements in behavioral health and academic scores school-wide are significant. By bringing together all the stakeholders in student success, marshaling and coordinating access to resources and supports, and expanding learning time so students can master core concepts and skills, Community Schools ensures that barriers to learning are minimized and resources are maximized.

a staff member holds a child

Another successful program at The Baby Fold saw significant expansion in 2017. The Healthy Start early intervention program opened an office in Urbana so that family support specialists could work with expectant families in Champaign County.

Healthy Start originally launched in McLean County in 1995. Through the program, The Baby Fold’s specialists form close relationships with expectant families and offer them a variety of parenting and community resources. Not only does the support specialist help the parent relate to their child, but they also help the mother and/or father build a safe and economically viable environment for their family.

student sitting at his desk

During this time, the need for individualized special education services among young adults continued to grow. To help meet that need, however, more space was necessary. Thus, the former Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School building at 612 Oglesby Avenue in Normal was renovated once again. After serving as the Family Center for years, the historical building once again became a school.

In August 2018, Hammitt Junior-Senior High School relocated there, allowing even more young adults to benefit from the individualized special education offered at the school. And in July 2019, those special education services expanded once again to include a new location on Kays Drive in Normal.

Dianne Schultz

One more important event took place in this decade. We cannot wrap up our look at the history of The Baby Fold without noting that on July 1, 2014, Dianne Schultz became the organization’s CEO. Dianne replaced Dale Strassheim upon his retirement, and she has been CEO since. After 8 years in the important role, and more than 30 years at The Baby Fold, Dianne recently announced her own retirement for June 2023.

Looking to the future, The Baby Fold will continue to grow and evolve as necessary to meet the needs of local children and families, just as we’ve done for the last 120 years.

Twelve Transformative Programs: Training, Consultation, and Certification

The dedication and devotion of The Baby Fold staff ensures that the children and families in our programs receive care like nowhere else. Our high level of support is also due to the fact that The Baby Fold employs nationally recognized experts in the field of child welfare. 

In fact, The Baby Fold is often called upon at the local, state, and national levels to provide expert instruction to others in the field. We regularly consult with school districts, provide in-service training, and offer specialty workshops.

By sharing the knowledge of our experts, we can empower others with the tools they need to help even more children throughout the state and nation. That’s why we have big plans to expand upon our training and consultation services in 2023. We cannot wait to share news about our new training center with you! Watch for an announcement early next year. Merry Christmas to all.

Bless a Child. Give a Year-End Gift Today.
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